By Sue Tiffin
The following are brief reports from a Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit press conference held virtually on April 28 with medical officer of health Dr. Natalie Bocking.
Mass vaccine clinics in Haliburton County continue to not be running at full capacity due to low supply of vaccine. At press time, clinics were scheduled for May 7 and May 20 at the A.J. LaRue Community Centre in Haliburton, and May 14 and May 18 at the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena in Minden. The Minden and Halburton clinics – five of the six mass vaccine clinics in the region in total – were closed last week as the health unit used mobile teams to reach congregate care settings and ensure everyone from the province’s priority population guidelines had received at least one shot of vaccine. In City of Kawartha Lakes, the drive-in clinic at the Lindsay Exhibition remains open, while a clinic is scheduled for May 9 in Fenelon Falls.
“This week … we received about 3,500 doses of Pfizer [vaccine], previously we were receiving around 5,800, almost 6,000 doses,” said Bocking last week. “We know that for the next two weeks our supply is increasing very slightly.”
Vaccine supply is expected to increase throughout Ontario this month.
“We’ve received quite promising and exciting updates from the province that the amount of Pfizer that is coming into the province is increasing quite significantly over the month of May, and as a result of that, we will be receiving additional vaccine for our jurisdiction which I think is quite … what we’ve been waiting to hear,” said Bocking.
This week [May 3] and next week [May 10], around 4,700 doses of Pfizer vaccine will be available in the HKPRD region.
“After that, our supply almost doubles as the province overall is seeing an increase supply of Pfizer [vaccine],” said Bocking. “For the next two-and-a-half weeks, our clinics won’t be at full capacity yet, but as we move into the latter part of May, they’ll be not quite full capacity but certainly being utilized in a way that we had hoped with that increased supply.”
Bocking welcomed the additional supply of vaccine, which has been much-desired.
“We are greatly looking forward to that,” said Bocking. “I think a lot of the frustrations that were being felt by residents and community members, as well as health care staff and our staff, have been related to vaccine supply issues, and as this becomes less of a problem, then we can ensure more people are accessing the vaccine.”
Currently, 22 pharmacies throughout the health unit region – of those, Shopper’s Drug Mart, Rexall and the the DRUGStore pharmacy at Todd’s Independent in Haliburton – and seven primary care teams, either family health teams or community health centres, are able to administer vaccinations.
One dose of vaccine does not equal full vaccination
Bocking reminded residents that have been vaccinated that they should continue following public health measures until a greater number of the population has been protected with both doses of vaccine.
“Certainly we are hopeful at the point in time when there’s enough people that have received the vaccine, we will move towards fewer public health measures, but until that time the recommendation is still, after receiving the vaccine that you’re minimizing social gatherings, you’re staying at home, you’re wearing a mask, all of the same public health measures still apply,” she said.
She recognized that it was a challenge for people to continue following public health recommendations after the excitement of a vaccine.
“I know that people are excited, to get that first dose,” she said. “It feels like, it’s a sense of relief to a lot of people. It’s hard to remind yourself that it means life doesn’t actually change in terms of the public health measures that you should be practicing after that first dose of vaccine. Really, life is the same, it’s still staying at home, there’s still a stay-at-home order, it’s still wearing a mask, unfortunately it does mean not being able to see, in close proximity, your family members yet, and really it’s a huge step in the right direction in moving everybody closer to that point where we can start to change some of those public health measures but it’s not there just yet.”
Vaccines safe and effective
When eligible, Bocking recommended that residents get their COVID-19 vaccinations.
“What we know right now is that the vaccines are safe and that they are effective,” she said. “When we look at other countries that have had broader vaccination, earlier vaccination roll-out than we have, they are seeing a change in their numbers, in their hospitalizations, and severe outcomes related to COVID-19.”
The health unit can work with those who might be hesitant, worried about safety or worried about access.
“It’s a really important step for all of us to take together to protect our community members, and especially those that might be at highest risk of having a severe outcome from COVID should they be infected with it,” she said.
Additionally, to those who might be eligible for a vaccine but are waiting so that others can get it first, Bocking said there is no need to wait.
“My recommendation is that if you’re offered the vaccine, if you’re able to get an appointment, that you don’t wait, that you take that appointment when you can, when it’s available,” she said. “At this point in time, really we want as many people to be vaccinated as possible, so I think if you’re meeting those age groups, or your eligibility is there, then there’s no reason to wait, I’d encourage you to book that vaccination appointment if you haven’t already.”
Recent cases highest in under-20 age group
Bocking said the highest proportion for cases being seen over the past two weeks are in the “under 20-years-old” group, and then the next highest number of cases are in the 50 – 59 age group.
In terms of source of exposure, a small per cent of recent cases are related to outbreaks, about 7.5 per cent.
“Really, the vast majority is still community spread,” said Bocking.
Within community spread categories, the highest proportion of cases – 37 per cent – were people that were a household contact of a case. Cases identified as being connected to a close contact make up 21 per cent of exposure of recent cases, and 32 per cent of cases are those in which exposure what not identified.
Almost 65,000 HKPRD residents have had at least one shot
As of April 28, 64,953 residents of the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, with Bocking noting that 75 per cent of people in the 80-and-older age group, and 66.8 per cent of the 60 and older age group have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
“I think that’s quite a promising statistic,” said Bocking. “We know that roll-out has continued. There have been some challenges related to vaccine supply, but when we look at the numbers, I think our progress of roll-out has been quite good and certainly meets the provincial average right now, if not actually doing a little bit better.”
Golf still not allowed during the provincial stay-at-home order
Bocking responded to a question asking about the restriction of golf in place during the province’s stay-at-home order, which has been disputed by golfing enthusiasts.
“I’ve seen that petition, I appreciate the frustration of the golfers,” she said.
Bocking said that the stay-at-home order includes the closure of amenities such as golf to further decrease social gatherings.
“Even though golf as a sport, it’s easier to keep your distance, than some other sports,” she noted. “My understanding of some of that rationale, really, was that it has the potential to encourage social gatherings so even though, in and of itself, it’s an outdoor sport, and it’s certainly considered safer than many other activities, under the stay-at-home order it was still closed.”